By Susie Ling
Monrovia Trivia Question: Who is Fonzo? Well, of course Fonzo is the life-size chef statue in front of Old Town Bistro on Myrtle Avenue. This restaurant was opened in 2011 by the husband and wife team, Soren and Sunday Loft. It should be noted that their third chef with 2 percent ownership – and the person who named Fonzo – is their daughter, Sydney.
Sunday Loft said, “I was raised in restaurants. My grandmother was a waitress and she would take me to work with her. At 18, I started waitressing at Salt Shakers in South Pasadena. When Mimi’s opened on Huntington Drive in the 1980s, I moved there. When I turned 21, I worked for the brand new nightclub in the Holiday Inn – which is where Red Lobster is now. And then I met my husband, Soren.” Sunday continued, “When Soren was 16, he worked for free for a restaurant because he wanted to learn how to cook. He is the true talent behind Old Town Bistro. These are all his recipes.”
After a short stint in Soren’s hometown of Diamond Bar, Sunday brought her husband and their young daughters, Jessica and Sydney, back to Monrovia. Sunday is a product of Mayflower, Clifton, and Monrovia High. “Monrovia was my stomping ground. I used to live in a house right below the Big M on the hills. When we were youngsters, we would hike up and then slide down the M on cardboard,” laughed Sunday. In between raising their girls, Sunday continued her restaurant work with Domenico’s Italian Restaurant on Huntington Drive as well as being a yoga instructor at the Foothill Gym on Myrtle Ave. She joked, “I so love Monrovia that when I get near the Arcadia border, I have a panic attack.”
And then it became their turn to have their own restaurant. The space for Old Town Bistro used to be part of The Jewelry Box (opened in 1921). When the space got split, it was a candy shop and then a Mediterranean restaurant with a front kitchen. “We took a leap. It was terrifying to have a family-owned and operated restaurant. We learned a lot, especially about tenacity, patience, and persistence. We make all our food fresh, the way we would make it at home. This is our second home.” Old Town Bistro is known for their European flair – crepes, paninis, pastas, homemade pizza, and salads. The coffee is the one import: LavAzza. Sunday said, “I’m actually half French, and half Russian. But my step-grandpa was Italian and Grandma made gnocchi and all. My husband, Soren, is of Danish descent.”
The Lofts have a unique vantage point of Monrovia. Old Town Bistro’s front kitchen window facing Myrtle Avenue allows Sunday to observe much. “We really like dogs and we see all the dogs walking their people. I also see pedestrians crossing the mid-block almost get hit. Even today I had to gasp! I do not want to ever witness such a horrible accident.” Soren, who is Vice Chair of the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board, made a recommendation to the City: flag stands. He designed and constructed the prototype in February of 2017. “I sewed the flags myself,” boasted Sunday, “People do use the flags. The kids are especially happy to use them – being their own cross guard.” Old Town Bistro also established a 2017 Christmas Giving drive, collecting essentials for Union Station on Skid Row. The restaurant donated all the tri-tip and mac and cheese to the local Pink Patch Project, a collaboration between the police and the City of Hope to raise funds for breast awareness.
Sunday said, “We hire local kids. And they have to have the same values. They have to be loving and giving. They have to care about each other, our customers, and this job.” In fact, the Lofts sometimes take their young restaurant workers with them on family vacations. Daughter Sydney is also a product of Monrovia High and now a substitute teacher in the Monrovia District. Her mother added, “Like me, Sydney grew up in the restaurant business. I used to take her with me to work at Domenico’s and she would do her homework there.” By the way, Sydney’s Chef Fonzo has a brother in the back patio.